Perhaps it was the stuff of your childhood imagination. Maybe it was the perfect inspiration for your next D&D campaign. It could just be that elves, dwarves, sword-wielding heroes, damsels in distress, dragons, and wizards are just so damn cool. Whatever the reason for loving it so much, we all have a favorite fantasy movie.
This was truly a difficult choice for me. At first I thought it might be Legend because I happen to think it’s the best fantasy film. But then it came to me. I heard a voice. “Come… come my child.” And when I considered which fantasy movie still makes me geek-out like a dweeb no matter how many hundreds of times I see it, it’s Conan The Barbarian.
Arnie is at his most quiet brooding barbarian badassiest, and that’s just the glue that holds the whole film together. Conan’s friends complete the perfect adventuring party, from the archer, to the old sage wizard, to the fierce and sexy valkyrie. And as if that all didn’t make rolling funny-shaped dice, and the scent of pencil erasures come to life, James Earl Jones’ rendition of a serpentine god-worshiping lycanthrope cult leader certainly does. The scene where Thulsa Doom explains his understanding of the Riddle of Steel to Conan is the stuff of pure, chilling fantasy!
I’d argue that James Earl Jones deserved an Oscar for the slithering mastermind behind a snake-worshiping cult spreading across the land like a plague. That element, combined with the simple story of a boy slave growing up to be a powerful barbarian who avenges the murder of his parents, is as classic as fantasy gets, and loads of fun along the way. Executed with attention to detail and a clear desire to take fantasy seriously, Conan The Barbarian, in my opinion, is an undisputed fantasy classic.
Picking my favorite fantasy movie seemed like a fairly simple task. Then my brain went into movie review mode and every fantasy movie I have ever watched ran through my head, which is generally what happens when I try to write anything. But then I steadied my resolve and realized my choice simply comes down to a movie I have watched many times, and can watch at any time. The Princess Bride is, and always will, be my favorite fantasy movie, and frankly it ranks right up there in my list of favorite movies of all time.
The Princess Bride has a wonderful cast, great story, great writing, and Rob Reiner does a great job weaving it all together. This movie does a rare thing when it comes to film. Just about anyone that has ever seen this movie can remember the whole cast, and every character. The movie is highly quotable: “My name is Indigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die.” Everyone in the universe knows that line. We are all intimately knowledgeable of R.O.U.S. from the Fire Swamp. We have all spent time fantasizing about having fun while storming a castle, and let’s face it, we all want to be pirates, especially “dread” ones.
I always have time to watch this movie, and quite frankly it is in my monthly movie rotation, yes, I have a few select movies that I view once a month. This is a practice that everyone should get into, but that’s for a different time. The Princess Bride has everything that makes a good fantasy movie, and in my opinion is a timeless classic.
“You remind me of the babe…”
Look, I could just transcribe the lyrics of this song and put it under the heading of Favorite Fantasy Movie and that would be enough. But if I must do an actual write-up of why Labyrinth is my favorite fantasy film, well here we go!
Directed by Jim Henson (the patron saint of childhood) Labyrinth features some of the most complicated, and brilliantly beautiful muppets that have ever been produced (except The Dark crystal, of course). Hoggle, Ludo, Sir Didymus… they all have features, and facial abilities so complex you’d weep if they gave you a sad wistful look.
The storyline is compelling as well, written by Terry Jones of Monty Python fame. A young girl makes a horrible mistake and must atone for it by courageously saving her brother from the Goblin King. Let’s give a nod also to a strong, heroic, and intelligent female leading role. Sarah was outsmarting goblins, and navigating the Labyrinth on her own well before feminism became mainstream, and she grew and became more responsible throughout the entire film.
Finally, and most importantly perhaps: DAVID (friggin) BOWIE! His portrayal of Jareth the Goblin King is fantastic. It’s cunningly evil, sleazily sexy, and wonderfully acted. His additions to the soundtrack cannot be overlooked, and it’s what makes this movie stand out to me.
This film has the trifecta of fantasy movie must-haves: Visually stunning, great story-line, and fantastic well-developed characters. It succeeds even after almost 30 years of re-watching. And if you don’t agree with me, I’ll make you a prince…. Prince of the Land of Stench!!!